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I-League: Ten-man Mumbai FC hold Pune FC to entertaining 1-1 draw

Ten-man Mumbai FC did very well to hold Pune FC to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the I-League.

Mumbai FC and Pune FC players vie for the ball during their I-League encounter (via FootballMasala)

Mumbai, March 22 (IANS) Ten-men Mumbai FC conceded a late goal but still held Pune FC to a 1-1 draw in a pulsating, but sparsely attended match of the I-League at the Cooperage football ground on Sunday.

Playing with a man down for more than an hour, Mumbai were leading till the 75th minute following Taisuke Matsugae's spending strike. However, they could not withstand the incessant pressure applied by the visitors, who restored parity through Raju Yumnam. 

Pune were up against a resilient Mumbai side who defended doggedly till the final whistle. Sampath KuttyMani was shown a direct red card in the 29th minute for a rash tackle on Ganesh Dhanpal.

That moment changed the course of the tie as till then Mumbai were having an upper hand over their neighbours, especially after Taisuke had given them the lead in the fourth minute.

The hard-working Japanese spotted rival goalkeeper Arup Debnath wandering out of his position while taking a free-kick from his own half. Taisuke rode his luck and hurled one. His ambitious effort caught Debnath off guard and found back of the net.

Tasuke's freakish attempt was applauded by Pune FC coach Karim Bencherifa as well while the 3,115 strong crowd at Cooperage cheered in disbelief.

KuttyMani's red card turned the tide in Pune's favour, but an injury to their key striker Darko Nikac put them in a spot. Nikac, playing his first official match since returning from a long injury lay-off, hurt the same ankle and had to be stretchered off. His absence affected Pune dearly as they failed to test Mumbai goalkeeper Nidhin Lal enough.

The second half was all about Mumbai's defence and Pune's attack, resembling a training session. Mumbai put all men behind the ball to protect their lead and defended deep. However, in the 76th minute Arata Izumi cushioned a header towards Yumnam, who volleyed it home.

An upbeat Pune thereafter resorted to long shots and crosses, but could not find the winner.

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